The Hunger Games Redefines the Chick Flick

Suzanne Collins’ popular novel, The Hunger Games hit the big screen with a bang. With Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role as Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games pulled in the big bucks…more than $155 million on its opening weekend. The Hunger Games has received great reviews from fans of the books and newcomers. I hope Hollywood is listening.(They always listen to box office dollars.) Movies about women can make money without the ridiculous love stories  and mean girl movies they keep forcing on us!

For those of you who have not read The Hunger Games or have not seen the movie, this post contains TONS of spoilers. I can’t help myself, I have to tell it all.

District 12

The Hunger Games District 12The Hunger Games takes place in the not to distant future,  a postapocalyptic world, in  called Panem. Ruled by a central totalitarian government, known as The Capitol, each year the residents of each district must send two teenage tributes to participate in a violent battle to the death – The Hunger Games.

Located in the Appalachian Mountains, District 12 specializes in coal mining. District 12 is the most impoverished district and Katniss’ family lives in the even poorer area called  “The Seam“.

Each district produces its products in service to The Capitol, which holds them in its power. The movie does an excellent  job of showing District 12’s poverty and the real hunger of its residents.

Katniss

Katniss’ father died in a coal mining accident when she was 11 years old, leaving her mother in a deep depression. Even though hunting and entering the woods is forbidden by The Capitol, Katniss regularly sneaks into the woods and uses her skills with a bow and arrow to put food on her family’s table. This helps you to understand the character of Katniss. This 16-year-old girl has to take on adult responsibilities. She doesn’t have time or money for romance or frivolities, like pretty clothes, make-up or fancy hairstyles.

One of the reasons I enjoyed the novels and this movie adaptation, is the character of Katniss, a 16-year old girl who ‘handles her business‘.  She has the attention of 2 handsome young men, but  Katniss is more concerned about the welfare of her baby sister, Prim. Unlike other books and movies in this genre, the story centers on her strength, resourcefulness and her intelligence, not her search for love. This is my idea of a real Chick Flick!

In the book, we are inside Katniss’ head, so you knew her  thoughts and insecurities. Suzanne Collins wrote  books for  a young adult audience, but women of all ages can identify with a female character who must rise up to meet her circumstances with courage and inner strength.

I have to admit, I thought Jennifer Lawrence was not right for the role. But she did a fantastic job of conveying Katniss’ conflicting emotions and her strengths. With her blond hair dyed black, Lawrence managed to convince me that she was Katniss Everdeen. So, there I said it…I was wrong.

Gale and Peeta: This is Not a Love Story

Handsome Liam Hemsworth (Chris’ brother) plays Katniss’ hunting buddy Gale. Their friendship is not explored in-depth in the movie, but Gale will take on a much larger role in the upcoming sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

Former child actor, Josh Hutcherson plays the baker’s son, Peeta the other Tribute from District 12. One of the key story lines is Peeta’s unrequited love for Katniss. In a series of flashbacks, the movie reveals the time when Peeta gave Katniss a loaf of burnt bread. It doesn’t seem like much, but  people in ‘The Seam‘ don’t get bread of any kind (burnt or not).Romance is a minor player in the story. There end the comparisons to Twilight…ugh!

The Capitol

The extreme poverty of District 12 is in sharp contrast to the extravagance of The Capitol. When Katniss walks  into the train that would take her to The Games, it was like Dorothy walking from black and white Kansas to the Technicolor Land of OZ.

Effie Trinket , played by Elizabeth Banks personifies the outlandish, colorful and gaudy Capitol fashion. Pink hair, a face plastered in garish make-up and a dazzling array of outlandish outfits.

The harsh circumstances of the Districts doesn’t concern The Capitol because they have every luxury. Their children are not entered into The Games, in fact The Hunger Games are the biggest entertainment event of the year, like the Superbowl or the Olympics, except people brutally kill each other.

The Ridiculous Nature of Realty TV

The Hunger Games is the ultimate reality TV show, broadcasted into every home in Panem. It is shown in the town square, it is even projected into the sky so that no one misses a minute of the show. When you see the grandiosity, pomp and attention that is focused on the production of The Games, you could easily lose track of the fact that 23 young people will soon die. Katniss and the other Tributes are primped and pampered and put on display to the delight of The Capitol’s residents. This is a society of people who are so jaded that only violence and death can entertain them.

Reading the book, I was confused about the role of  Seneca Crane and the Gamemakers. After seeing Wes Brently’s divinely bearded, Seneca Crane as the master Gamemaker,  a TV show producer/director, it made more sense. With technology, he moves the tributes around like pieces on a chess board. When there is not enough action, he manipulates the ‘game‘ to produce more drama, throwing a tribute into death’s path. Fake drama…sounds like The Real Housewives of Panem.

Perfect Casting

When you read a book, you imagine the characters based on the author’s description. When you find out the book will become a movie, you imagine which actors and actress should play each role.  The casting director nailed this movie on the head!

Woody Harrelson was perfect as the drunken, disillusioned Haymitch, with long, scraggly hair and gruff demeanor.

I had actually  pictured the stylist, Cinna not nearly as masculine as  Lenny Kravitz, but he looks good in gold eyeliner. Donald Sutherland’s white hair and bulging blue eyes gave him just the right amount malevolence to play the sinister President Snow.

Stanley Tucci plays the blue-haired TV announcer, Caesar Flickerman. As usual, Tucci is wonderful in the role of the constantly grinning MC. Director, Gary Ross cleverly used Flickerman to explain elements of the story that might be missed you if you haven’t read the book, like the muttations.

If you read The Hunger Games, what did you think of the casting?

Follow the Rules or Do What’s Right

That is the choice Katniss is faced with. The Capitol forbids hunting in the woods, but her family would have starved if she followed that rule. It is also those very hunting skills that saves her life in The Hunger Games. Instead of killing her fellow tributes, Katniss actually protected Rue. And when Rue is killed, Katniss not only mourns her death, she honors her by adorning Rue’s body with flowers. It is because of this act of civil disobedience that Thrush, District 11’s male tribute spares her life.

When Katniss gives District 12’s  3-finger salute (meaning admiration, thanks and good-bye to a loved one) after Rue’s death, it becomes a symbol of defiance in the Districts and it will become much more significant in the upcoming sequels.

These and other things are what have made The Hunger Games books and movie so popular. Young girls want to see themselves as the hero of their own stories and they want to feel that they don’t need a boyfriend to help them to survive.

Ok. It’s your turn. What did you think of The Hunger Games movie? Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss? What was left out of the movie  and how does it compare to the book?

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About Clara Mathews

Clarabela (Clara Mathews) is freelance web content copywriter, professional blogger and Hugh Jackman fan. In addition to writing about her love of movies at JustChickFlicks.com, Clarabela is also a regular contributor to DignityZine.  Follow Just Chick Flicks on Facebook.